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Bears Win in Front of Home Crowd on the Road
Photos by Alena Schwarz
When the Hershey Bears defeated the Norfolk Admirals 2-1 Thursday night, they played in one of the most supportive away games they’ll likely ever play.
For the Admirals it was a home game, but on the Verizon Center ice, in front of a boisterous Capitals fan-clustered crowd, it seemed more like enemy territory.
“It’s nice to see [fan support] on an away game, although it was kind of a home game,” defenseman Cameron Schilling said. ”It was nice to see this many people. It takes away from an ordinary regular season game. It was nice to come here and play.”
It became perfectly clear which side the fans were on when the Admirals scored 10 seconds into the game. While the goal horn blared, it was hard pressed to find a fan cheering in the stands.
But for the next 59 minutes and 50 seconds the scoring belonged to the “home” away team.
Left wing Evan Barlow got the scoring started for the Bears in the first period, but both teams remained deadlocked until 4:26 in the third period.
Center Ryan Potulny snuck a shot in on the power play to give the Bears their eventual 2-1 victory.
Right wing Garrett Mitchell said the game was a huge win for the team, not just because of the experience of playing in front of a big crowd, but because it gave the team two much-needed points.
“It was awesome for us and it’s pretty special playing in front of this crowd and this building,” he said. “It was awesome to use these facilities, but at the end of the day, it’s two points for us. It’s a big two points.”
With roughly five minutes left in the game, fans started to voice their displeasure with the lack of hockey Verizon Center has seen this season. Chants of “Fire Bettman” rang through the rafters. It was a chant that reached even the players on the ice.
“I got a chuckle out of it,” Mitchell said.
As is the trend when most hockey fans are gathered together, they made it clear how badly they wanted hockey back.
“When you’re able to play in this facility and in front of the crowd that we did tonight, it was loud and enthusiastic and you can tell the fans want the game back,” Mitchell said. “I think that was pretty evident tonight.”
However, for some of the AHL-level players, this lockout isn’t the worst thing. As a result, many NHL guys have found their way to the minor leagues, so for those who are stuck in the minors, it’s a chance for them to show what they’ve got.
“It puts us to the test to show the organization and the coaching staff that we can play with those guys,” Mitchell said.
But regardless of what was happening in meeting rooms outside of Verizon Center, for goaltender Braden Holtby who’s not unaccustomed to large crowds, it was nice to hear them rooting for the “home” team.
“It was good to see the crowd again and be back here at Verizon Center,” he said. “It was great that we pulled out a victory.”